Hackers love it when they can break a company's security. That's because unlike getting into one person's computer, a company might unlock access to the information for hundreds, thousands or even millions of people.
Just look at the data breaches last year that exposed hundreds of millions of user records, including names, Social Security numbers, email addresses, phone numbers, credit and debit card numbers and more. It's a hacker's dream.
That's why hackers are always coming up with new ways to get around your company's defenses. I've told you how they can use LinkedIn to create spear phishing attacks that trick company employees into downloading viruses.
Now hackers have figured out another way to slip past a company's protections. And it's a serious concern for any business, large or small.
Hackers are starting to hide viruses in fake résumés. The attacker will browse job sites, apply for an open job and attach a document containing a virus. The job site delivers the malicious document to the company as a regular email attachment.
If you think about it, that's the perfect cover because you expect a résumé email to have files attached. There could even be several files between the résumé itself, a cover letter and maybe some portfolio files or letters of reference.
Most HR people wouldn't think twice about downloading and opening an email attachment if they thought it was a résumé, in fact that's their job. They could even forward it on to managers and people in other departments who would open the attachment as well.
Once that virus is running, though, it can spread through the entire company network stealing information or creating security holes for the hacker to sneak through.
Security firm Proofpoint came across some hackers doing this on the CareerBuilder job board. The hackers didn't seem to be targeting any specific company, but they were focusing on positions in engineering, programming and finance.
In this case, the hackers were sending a malicious Word document that took advantage of a flaw in Microsoft Word. The security defect can download a virus hidden in an image to the company computer. Hiding the virus in an image on a Word document can often get around security software.
While hackers used Word documents this time, there's no reason they couldn't use PDF files in the future. Adobe Reader, which many computers use to open PDF files, often has flaws that hackers exploit.
So, how can you protect your company? Unfortunately, you can't tell your HR people not to open résumé email attachments.
Keeping Microsoft Word updated is a good start. That will close the known security holes. Click here to learn how to update Word automatically.
There are also free Word-compatible programs, like LibreOffice, that don't include many of the same security flaws. You can open the files with one of those.
For the best security, you can do what I recommend to secure your company's financial computers, and that is to isolate your HR computer from the rest of the company network. If you aren't sure how to do that, open the résumé files in a secure, temporary operating system like Tails.
If you need to pass résumés around the company, either print them out or move the information into a new file before passing it on.